The outcome of the national lockdown review and a plan for the gradual lifting of restrictions will be made public in the week beginning February 22, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced.
Speaking in Parliament today (January 27) the PM said that it was too soon to relax restrictions and there was not enough evidence to show the effect of the vaccine on blocking transmission, reducing hospitalisations, as well as seeing a lowering death rate, to make any decisions yet.
He added: “We remain in a perilous situation with more than 37,000 people in hospital with covid, almost double the number in the peak in April.
“The overall picture will be clearer by mid February and we will then know more about the effect of the vaccine and be in a better position to chart a course out of lockdown.”
Yesterday the country passed a grim landmark with the deaths of some 100,000 people who had tested positive for covid since the pandemic began.
The measures will be reviewed in mid February when the top four priority groups have received vaccinations.
The PM said that on February 22: “We will set out the results of the review and publish our plan for taking the country out of lockdown,” although he added this will be dependent on the vaccination programme going to plan and the rate of hospital cases and deaths being reduced.
It is planned for a gradual phasing to reduce restrictions but the first step, as a “national priority” will be reopening schools with an earliest target date of March 8.
Economic and social restriction easing will follow.
The PM also announced a £300m package aimed at helping youngsters catch up with the learning missed over the many months of lockdown.
These will include Summer school initiatives and tutoring.
The PM also spoke of strengthening border control, saying: “We already temporarily closed all travel corridors and we are already requiring anyone coming to this country to have proof of a negative Covid test taken in the 72 hours before leaving.
“They must also complete a Passenger Locator Form which must be checked before they board – and then quarantine on arrival for ten days.
“I want to make clear that under the stay at home regulations it is illegal to leave home to travel abroad for leisure purposes and we will enforce this at ports and airports by asking people why they are leaving and instructing them to return home if they do not have a valid reason to travel.
“We have also banned all travel from 22 countries where there is a risk of known variants including South Africa, Portugal and South American nations, and in order to reduce the risk posed by UK nationals and residents returning home from these countries,I can announce that we will require all such arrivals who cannot be refused entry to isolate in government-provided accommodation – such as hotels – for ten days without exception. They will be met at the airport and transported directly into quarantine.”
In the UK 6.8 million people, over 13 per cent of the entire adult population, has now received a vaccination jab.
In England first doses have been given to over four-fifths of those aged 80 or over, and over half of those aged between 75 and 79 and three quarters of elderly care home residents
The PM added that current evidence shows that both the vaccines remain effective against the new variant of the virus.